Indictments May Reverse Courthouse Vote


It was business as usual Tuesday at the county commission.

Commissioners Ilene Lieberman and Stacy Ritter voted with four colleagues  Tuesday to build a more expensive courthouse parking garage.

Lieberman and Ritter are under investigation on unrelated matters that have nothing to do with the garage.

If they were arrested and out of the  picture, the vote might be reversed saving taxpayers at least $5 million by picking another site.  

 Three things could happen before the garage contract comes back next year for a final vote:

  • Lieberman and Ritter could be indicted by State Attorney Mike Satz’s prosecutors.
  • Lieberman and Ritter then are removed by the governor.
  • Lieberman and Ritter are replaced by gubernatorial appointees more concerned about saving money.  


Commissioners choose to build a parking garage in the old Coca Cola plant on South Andrews Avenue, which is one of the last historic buildings in downtown Fort Lauderdale and would be torn down.

They rejected another plan to expand the existing garage just east of the courthouse which would have been at least $5 million cheaper.

The vote was 6-3.  Commissioners Sue Gunzburger, Chip LaMarca and John Rodstrom voted against the deal.

Lieberman and Ritter voted for the more expensive project. If they were indicted and replaced, the vote could reverse to 5-4 against it.

Lieberman nor Ritter have not been charged with any wrong doing.

Lieberman has been reported to be under investigation for her role in the huge project proposed by developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to pave over golf courses in Tamarac. 

The Chaits have pleaded guilty to corruption and have been naming names, including allegations printed in the Sun-Sentinel that they paid $100,000 cash to Lieberman commission aide and political operative Bev Stracher for lobbying.

Ritter is involved in several publicized scandals, most recently allegations by the state Elections Division that she used campaign funds for lavish meals and to pay $15,000 to herself and her husband.  She is also accused of leaving thousands of dollars off the reports.

The allegations against Ritter look suspiciously like the ones that prompted former Commission Scott Cowan to plead guilty to election law violations a decade ago.  Cowan ended up quitting his commission seat and doing a short stint in jail.

The Sun-Sentinel quoted Satz’s spokesman Ron Ishoy: “We already are looking at much of what the (elections) commission has examined, As we do in most cases like this, we’ll get the [commission] file.”


Read more about the parking garage deal here.

8 Responses to “Indictments May Reverse Courthouse Vote”

  1. ontheequator says:

    Buddy … refresh our memory of what Scott Cowan used campaign money for … a desk and computer??? What else?? Seems like Ritter may have pilfered much more from her campaign account.


    Here is the paragraph about the charges from The Miami Herald Nov. 14, 2000: “By pleading guilty, the veteran Democratic politician admitted he wrote checks worth $5,000 to phantom campaign workers and cashed the checks himself; that he deposited $25,000 in his campaign account after his reelection; that he failed to report campaign payments to his daughters after his reelection; and that he used campaign money to buy office furniture for his home.”

    An aside: This was a case that stemmed from an article in The Miami Herald shortly after Cowan’s 1998 re-election. A gadfly read the story and filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission.

    The commission fined Cowan after a lengthy investigation. State Attorney Mike Satz build on the commission’s investigation using his own prosecutors and filed criminal charges against Cowan.

    The incident shows the value of investigative journalism and gadflies.

  2. Law Review says:

    Maybe Ritter can be a door greeter at Davie Costco like Scott Cowan is. I think the position and the pay would be fitting.

  3. Question says:

    DIdn’t the new ethics law, require a selection committee, consisting of members not on the commision, to vote and rate the different proposals. And the Coca Cola site was voted number 1 unanimously? WOuldnt it be a farce to ethic reform if certain politicians voted for a project because of personal and or political relationships against a unanimous recommendation by the selection committee.
    I am confused by all of this? And how is this now about Lieberman and Ritter and why was the selection committee process left conveniently out of your reporting?


    Thanks for your comment.

    It is about Lieberman and Ritter because that is how those on the losing side hope to reverse the vote. That is the new element here. I’m not writing a recap of the whole dispute, although I linked to a former story I wrote.

    Yes, the selection committee voted the Stiles/Loos Coca Cola property number one. The county commission — elected by voters — has the final say. There is nothing in the new ethics laws that says the commission can’t overrule the selection commission. One of the selection commissioners is an elected official, Howard Forman. The others have all been around politics for years and work for the county commission, so don’t think they can’t be influenced.

    I disagree with their decision. I read both the lengthy presentation books. I believe the chosen site will destroy a historical building and back up traffic on Andrews Avenue. It is also more money.

    Both sites had high-powered “personal and political relationships.” Lieberman’s husband and Bill Scherer, the major figure in the project which lost Tuesday, had a publicized fee dispute in a law suit a few years ago. Did that color her opinion? Scherer is a major Republican fund raiser and close to the new governor Rick Scott. Does that color the opinions of these Democrats?

    Who knows?

    I do know we are in an economic recession in Broward and the commission decided to spend $5 million more money than they needed to.

  4. Ed Portner says:

    Yea, and I’m the crazy one,ehh? Damn, if I only had dry powder for my musket, we would not be having this conversation……

  5. speaking of color says:

    You forgot to mention that Rodstrom, my bet the source of the comment, could have his judgment colored because Scherer just won the lawsuit that killed term limits benefitting Rodstrom. This kind of crap is why term limits is badly needed so there can be new blood on the dais


    Thanks for your comment.

    As far as Rodstrom, Scherer’s term limit law suit would also benefit Ilene Lieberman who was on the other side of this issue.

    Sue Gunzburger and Chip LaMarca– both just got elected — also voted against the more expensive proposal. This isn’t about term limits. This is about spending taxpayers’ money.

    Anyway, I agree with you on term limits.

  6. electric Jack says:

    How did Barbara Shareff vote on the Courthouse fiasco

  7. Running with Scissors says:

    Why the major revision in this blog entry? Did you get some flak from your original Commissioner source?


    This version better reflects my thinking. I also believe it is written better.

  8. Tedd says:

    Buddy, I’m confused. Why focus on Lieberman and Ritter when the other commissioners voted “yes,” too. Jacobs, Wexler, Sharief and Holness all must have voted “yes.” What’s their deal? Didnt the plan get top ranking from the selection committee — a committee that NO Commissioner serves on?

    FROM BUDDY: Lieberman and Ritter are the only ones mentioned in the media to be under investigation. The post says that if they are indicted or otherwise charged due to this investigation, they will be removed from office and the next vote on the garage will have different commissioners.

    I gave my views on the selection committee on Dec. 9 in answer to an earlier comment.